Attempts to Speak at
the University of California
A special ACTION REPORT on the Berkeley disturbances for DIFF contributors living in California, Nevada and Oregon, October 1994
On October 10, 1994 David Irving spoke in a church
hall at Portland, Oregon, filled to overflowing with around
120 people. There was a crowd of demonstrators outside. He
went out to try to debate with them, and got spat at for his
pains; the police arrested Alaric Brown for
disorderly conduct, and evening TV showed the incident.
The intimidation of the mob outside the Alumni House held off all but 100 of the original audience, some of whom had come from as far as Nevada and Oregon. As Mr Irving was about to speak, two hundred people including members of the Jewish fraternity Alpha-Epsilon-Pi and mobsters hired by the Anti-Defamation League and its strong-arm gang, the Jewish Defence League, arrived and stormed the building; many of them had their faces concealed in stocking masks like bank robbers or the violent Marxist thugs familiar in street riots in Germany in the seventies. One thug had the specific task of throwing over Mr Irving's book tables and trampling books, cassettes and the speaker underfoot.
Although Leslie Katz of the Northern California Jewish Bulletin claimed that the protest was "reportedly organized by a student communist group, Young Spartacists", many of the thugs were in their fifties, and their leafiets' language was straight out of ADL literature, with vicious embellishments. Emily Tanner, a spokeswoman for the Spartacist League ("a revolutionary socialist organisation," as she called it to the San Francisco Chronicle) accused the police of causing the injuries with their batons. In fact the injuries were all inflicted by the leftist thugs.
Mr Irving was thrown around violently, but escaped
serious injury. Several members of his audience were less
fortunate and had to be taken to the Alta Bates hospital in
Berkeley, accompanied by the jeers of the mob, as the
Chronicle reported. The university's Daily
Californian quoted identified the Spartacist leader
as Barbara Frank; the student newspaper also quoted
Shadow Moyer of the International Socialist
Organization as saying: "I think what happened here was 100
Ten minutes passed before police in riot gear arrived.
Eventually, according to the San Francisco
Examiner, forty police officers were involved
and several blocks were cordoned off until nine p.m. as the
rock and bottle throwing mob spilled back out of the
building onto the streets.
Damage to the YWCA building was estimated at several
thousand dollars: "It was horrible, just horrible," Katz
quoted YWCA director Sharon Bettinelli as exclaiming.
What a spectacle; vicious tomcat girls with cameras kicked
out wildly at the panelled doors as members of the audience
tried to force them shut. Every table was splintered, its
legs torn off for use as clubs; lamps were smashed, chairs
were ruined, pictures ripped from walls, windows and mirrors
smashed; tapes spilling out of smashed cassettes littered
the floor with torn book-jackets and books.
Henry Lee, a reporter of the Berkeley Daily
Californian interviewed Mr Irving as he knelt to pick
up the pieces and quoted him as saying: "You can judge for
yourself who's using the fascist methods. What are they
afraid of, free speech?" He added (not reported by the
newspaper): "You should ask who puts up the money to stage
demos like this--and why."
Then he delivered his talk to a rapt if dishevelled audience: one man had blood streaming down his forehead, the speaker had blood on the bridge of his nose where he had caught one swipe -- he found three pairs of spectacles in his pockets afterwards, of which only one was his. The police in riot gear staged an operation afterwards to get Mr Irving safely away. He has promised the students to return: to show that we cannot be intimidated.
The incident left uproar on the campus. The Daily Californian published a furious editorial entitled, "Introduction to the Freedom of Speech," on Oct. 18, attacking the rioters who had denied the historian a forum both by putting pressure on the original location, and then by trashing the alternative.
"It is extremely unfortunate when students lose a chance to listen to well-known figures speak on campus just because a small segment of population decides to transfer its antagonism toward these orators into violence."
The newspaper's columns were filled for days with letters both pro and con. Typical comments:
"The cops protected swastika-waving Nazis and viciously attacked the anti-fascists."
The rioters had got off scot free. Making no secret of their Marxist sympathies, these dinosaurs of the left held a series of "victory" meetings in Berkeley and the State university of San Francisco (ignoring the fact that for all their efforts Mr Irving had managed to deliver his speech as planned). Typical of their inflammatory and libellous statements in the Spartacists' publicity material were these:
Irving has been a star attraction at meetings of fascist terror gangs from the British National Party, to the Hitlerite "Nationale Offensive" in Germany, to the white-supremacist Heritage Front in Canada to the Klan and Nazis in the U.S. He whips up fascist thugs who have been waging a campaign of terror and murder against immigrants, minorities, gays, blacks, and anti-racist protestors around the globe.
[[ Mr Irving has had no connections whatever with
the British National Party, the Nationale Offensive, the
Klan, or "Nazis in the U.S.", nor with the Heritage Front in
Canada. Investigators there have now discovered that the
latter was directed and set up by ..., acting on the
instructions of the Canadian intelligence authorities ...
After conferring with Sergeant Celaya of the U.C.
Police Department, who assured them that security would not
be a problem, the coalition reserved the Zellerbach
Auditorium and alternatively the Wheeler Auditorium to host
a lecture by Mr Irving on Nov. 19. The police indicated that
fifteen to twenty extra police officers would be needed, and
the coalition guaranteed to meet the additional expense.
A further meeting was scheduled with Police Captain
Bill Foley for Nov. 2, but it was cancelled: that
same day, at the Vice-Chancellor's meeting, without any
consultation, the decision was taken to prevent Mr Irving
from speaking due to "campus safety and health concerns."
This ukase was handed to the new coalition's spokesman Arash
Darya-Bandari at a meeting with the university's Student
Activities & Services body on Nov. 7.
The coalition asked the university to consider other possible locations on campus, but again the request was denied, in a letter dated Nov.10.
"Given the history of events featuring David Irving in Berkeley [wrote Karen D Kenney, director of Student Activities & Services] we could not identify a campus facility in which the public's safety could be ensured."
This history, she continued, included injury to persons and destruction to property at the University YWCA in 1994 and (unspecified) problems at the International House in 1989. The coalition had ten days to appeal against the new ban to the Chancellor under campus regulations.
On Nov. 14 the students lodged their appeal with W Russell Ellis, the university's Vice-Chancellor.
"It is a shame [they wrote] that on the thirtieth anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, the administration of the University of California at Berkeley is denying a historian the opportunity to speak and the right of students to listen to him speak on the Berkeley campus. This denial sends a clear message that after 30 years, the University of California's alleged support for freedom of speech is empty and hollow."
Students could read twenty of Irving's books in their
university libraries, yet they were being denied the right
to hear him speak in person. The University of California at
Berkeley had a long history of accommodating controversial
and high security-risk speakers. Former Presidents,
politicians, foreign leaders, civil rights activists and
revolutionary leaders have spoken on campus despite the
security risks and despite the controversial nature of the
views that man of them espoused. If the University could
ensure security for speakers like Jean-Bertrand Aristide,
Nelson Mandela, and Rabbi Meir Kahane, it could
certainly do so for Mr Irving.
University officials told the Daily
Californian on Nov. 14 that they did not want another
"full-scale riot" like Oct. 13. "At that time," explained
the newspaper's Rita Goldberg in a generally
sympathetic report, "dozens of people stormed the room where
Irving was speaking, damaging property and injuring three
"If they are alleging that we are not letting him here
because of his views," said campus spokesman Jesus Mena,
"that's absolutely false."
On Nov.21 Chang-Lin Tien, Chancellor of the
University of California at Berkeley, replied to the
Berkeley Free Speech Coalition -- which he recognised as a
registered student group -- confirming that he was
considering their appeal. "The decision to deny your
request," he summarised, "required careful consideration of
freedom of speech and public safety. I share your deep
concern for the protection of our right to free speech. That
right is essential to the intellectual pursuit of ideas.
Berkeley is proud of its long tradition supporting free
He added that the university also felt an obligation, however, to provide members of the campus community with a safe place to study, teach, work, and learn; that having been said, he asked the Vice Chancellor, W Russell Ellis, to meet with the coalition to reach a "mutually agreeable solution."
© Focal Point 1998 write to David Irving